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RELEASE: U.S. Department of State Takes Small but Important Step to Protect Spouses of Same-Sex Asylum Seekers

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Department of State’s recent change to the guidelines that inform refugee admissions makes it easier for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, or LGBT, refugees and asylees to have their partners join them in the United States. The State Department officially changed the interpretation of the term spouse under the Process Priorities, or P-3, family reunification program in order to allow same-sex partners of qualified refugees and asylees in the United States to file an affidavit of relationship in order to join their partners in the United Stateseven if they are not legally married. Many LGBT asylum seekers in the United States are fleeing persecution from their home countries because they are LGBT and unable to marry.

“The State Department has made a small but important change to its regulations, which will allow for more LGBT asylum seekers to reunite with their families in the United States,” said Sharita Gruberg, Center for American Progress Senior Policy Analyst and author of a column released today on the department’s change in policy. “Given that so few countries recognize same-sex marriages, the State Department’s former requirement of marriage documents meant that LGBT refugees had to choose between safety and living with the ones they love. Though the policy change is an important step toward equality within the ​refugee system, it must be expanded from the limited number of countries recognized in the P-3 program.”

Due to logistical hurdles, the P-3 program only recognizes a small pool of countries and leaves out some of the countries that are the most blatantly hostile to LGBT people. The column calls for the establishment of universal P-3 status, which will open family reunification to all refugees and asylees regardless of country of origin. Short of this measure, the column suggests the use of humanitarian parolewhich would allow  partners of asylees and refugees to enter the country for enough time to marry in the United States and extend protected status to their partners.

Click here to read the column.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at tcaiazza@americanprogress.org or 202.481.7141.